Monday, January 14, 2013

Guns and Weight Loss

We Should Ask Morgan Spurlock (But That's Not Where This Article Is Going)
This is a terrifying story: a husband receives a call from his wife who is at home with her two small children. An intruder has broken into the home and she, and the kids, have retreated upstairs--to the attic. The man is still coming--apparently hunting for them. He does not simply rob the place and leave, he continues up to where she is hiding. Her husband is on the phone with 911 but help is way too far away to make a difference.

She had a .38. When he entered the room where she was hiding she shot at him six times, emptying the weapon. Five of the rounds hit--one in the head. She ordered him to stay on the floor and fled. He was picked up, still alive, by police. As last I heard, he was in the hospital, presumably in very bad condition.

Had she not had the weapon--well, as he wasn't there to rob the place, I think we know how the story would have ended.

Guns can save your life.

Losing Weight Is Hard
These articles are studies on diet and lifestyle intervention for weight loss. The upshot is that for the vast majority of people who try diet and/or exercise over a five year period for anything more than 10% of their weight the odds of success are low.

In other words, if you are significantly overweight and you are planning on simply doing diet and exercise as a way to lose it? The odds are against you in the long term*.

Guns Are (Apparently) Dangerous Things To Own
That story above, though, the stats** apparently say that owning a gun is more dangerous to you than to potential home-invaders. That is, absent concealed carry where you have the gun with you when you are attacked outside the home, the odds of either a gun accident (you, your kids, etc.), a suicide, use of the gun improperly (such as, in a blind range), or a mistaken shooting are higher than the odds of you fighting off a home invader.

I believe this, more or less, to be the case mostly (as I say in the footnote below) on the basis that home-invasions are really, really rare and idiots are comparatively more common.

What Do These Things Have To Do With Each Other?
My thinking is this: just as I may know that to lose a lot of weight and keep it off with diet and exercise is going to be tough--that the odds might be against me--and so on, I also know that as I get to try to do it, that responsibility resides with me. Just as I know that guns may (statistically) be dangerous to own, I know that whether I can own them responsibly resides, as well, with me.

In other words, how these things work in general may be described by some fairly grim averages--but in specific the individual gets to make the call. Now, of course, with the exception of suicide, gun accidents or misuse hurts someone else and not sticking to your diet generally doesn't--the comparison is only valid across one dimension--however we can see from the story that when you really, really need a gun ... you really, really want a gun.

* Let's note, though, that those quips and headlines for the studies really don't tell the whole story. Firstly, while the success-bar (10%, 1 year) is set pretty low for some of those, a bunch of them study only one factor (usually diet). They also note that exercise and some diet, even if it does not result in dramatic weight loss, does improve overall health. And, finally, some of those linked articles above do give credence to the idea that people who can keep a 30-lb weight loss up for 1 year have a pretty decent shot of keeping it off longer.

** Which stats? Stats for this stuff are notoriously hard to come by. However, if you dislike my study, I will simply note that (a) home invasions are really, really rare and (b) home invasions where you have a chance to get your gun are even rarer. Then (c) suicide by gun and gun accidents, while also rare, is not as rare as home invasions. It seems to me that guns almost definitionally are more dangerous to own (a little bit dangerous) than they are likely to protect you from a vanishingly rare event (home invasion).

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